In this game, you’ve been Isekai’d and landed in a fantasy world where you’re now the master of a house. And your job is to put together the perfect harem by collecting and spending your hard-earned love on maids.
Name: Tanto Cuore
Publishers: Japanime Games
Year Published: 2009
Designer: Masayuki Kudou
Artists: Tohru Adumi, CARNELIAN, COMTA, Takahito Ekuchi, Takuya Fujima, Takehito Harada, Akira Hayase, Kira Inugami, Ishigaa, kawaku, KEI, Souji Kusaka, Misa Matoki, Rin Minase, Miki Miyashita, Misoka Nagatsuki, Nana, Aoi Nanase, Hiroki Ozaki, Poyoyon Rock, Ruchie, Satoru Satou, Mushimaro Tachikawa, Yuiko Tokui, Ofuu Yamadori
Putting aside any complaints of misogyny – like why aren’t there any male butlers? Or more fittingly to the theme, cute boys dressed as cute girls? The theme matches the artwork so closely that my head immediately makes several anime connections. Most recently Re: Zero – Starting life in another world, ya know, before the whole introduction of Betelguese.
Like Starlight Stage, also from Japanime games, this anime styling is a big draw to Tanto Cuore. And while Starlight Stage dipped a bit too far into Ecchi territory for my liking. Tanto Cuore fits more in the slice of life, or cute girls doing cute things genre, with just a touch of risqueness.
Mechanically though, Tanto Cuore is a deck-builder that’s hard to disassociate from Dominion. For the most part it follows the same formula in how to play but diverges when it comes to how it feels to play. In this respect, Dominion is like your daily commute, in that you know where to go, and how to get there, so you follow the same route. Tanto Cuore is that same commute but using GPS. You still know where you’re going, and how to get there, but now you’re alerted to congestion, breakdowns, or a ravenous pack of kangaroos and so your route changes to avoid the hazard.
An example of this is the static market. Throughout the game, the same 17 general maids and cards are available for purchase. This helps with playing into long term strategies. However, there are also private maids. One of a kind super maids – think Mary Poppins – that sit outside of your deck and offer you passive bonuses.
Not only are these passive bonuses strong enough for you to build a deck around, opening numerous strategies and keeping the game fresh. They’re also a key point of player interaction. Initially you race to secure good private maids before anyone else. But you’re also able to sabotage other player’s maids by giving them illnesses, or bad habits. Effectively cancelling out their points and special abilities.
This interaction is a nice twist to the formula, but it’s the rest of the cards that really make this game.
For instance, scoring.
While it’s still possible to do the ‘big money’ or in this case ‘big love’; a strategy in Dominion where you ignore the market and focus on collecting money, and points. I found in my play that it turns on too late for you to be successful. A large reason for this is the increased cost of currency and points cards.
With this dominant strategy no longer effective. It opens the game to its other strategies like a Tsundere shortly before she calls you a b-b-baka. And the other strategies available are rarely as straight forward. An example is the Safran Virginie cards which give you increasing amount of points the more you have, or the Colette Framboise cards which award you 1 point each, and an additional 5 points if you have the most Colettes at the end of the game.
However, even that is a simplification of the system in place. As both of these maids, and many others, require you to promote them to Chambermaids before you can access their victory points.
You do this by spending servings, or card plays. Beginning the game with only one card play per turn but you can buy maids to increase this. This subtle mechanic is my favourite addition to this game over Dominion, but only because Tanto Cuore divorces itself from the aforementioned ‘big love’ strategy.
And the reason is simple: choice.
While playing Dominion I found myself grabbing a lot of money, and a few actions. Meaning my card hands had limited actions for me to choose from. In Tanto Cuore, I was picking up more maids than money. This led to turns where I’d have 2-3 maids in my hand, and I’d be forced to choose between playing them for their immediate bonuses or promoting them for end of game victory points. It uses servings as a scarce but powerful commodity, forcing you to buy cards that might not fit your strategy.
I love how much this game encourages experimentation. I love it so much that I’m recommending this game as a Critical Hit. Which is a weird conclusion to make when you’re talking about a game of buying maids. But it’s the absurdity of this juxtaposition that makes this game a standout. Trust me, it will blow away your expectations like the dress of an anime girl on a windy day.
This game was provided for free by Japanime games.
My scheduling is all over the place lately. My wife started working again after taking a year and a half maternity leave. Which is great for us financially, but it means I’m spending a lot of my playing/writing time babysitting. I’m still trying to organise my time. So forgive me for being all over the place.
To make matters worse, the League of Legends World Championship and the Rugby World Championship are both on at the moment. Loving it. But again eats into my board game time.
In the meantime, I’m reaping the rewards of spending too much money on Kickstarter with Omega Protocol 7, and Sabotage unopened on my kitchen table. Can’t wait!
What are you playing?